Sleeping Dogs review
The story behind the development of Sleeping Dogs is almost as interesting as the stuff you get to do within the game itself. The game started out being the next planned chapter in Activision's True Crime series, even getting an advertisement through a teaser trailer at the Spike Video Game Awards. However, somewhere in the midst of United Front's work on the game, the publisher decided to pull the plug, instead relying on more noteworthy franchises (Call of Duty, etc.) to make its money. But Square Enix managed to pick up the pieces, giving the project a new name and allowing the developer to finish its work, and now we have the finished result, Sleeping Dogs. And it's a welcome sight, despite a few blemishes.
The story sounds awfully similar to the True Crime saga. You control Wei Shen, an undercover police officer who's shipped off to Hong Kong in the hopes of infiltrating a much-feared triad gang, who are in the middle of a war between brothers. But, like Grand Theft Auto before it, the game gives you freedom to pretty much choose whatever missions you want to take on. You can help out your newfound bosses and perform dastardly deeds; keep an eye on surveillance points in your apartment and bust criminals in the act; perform good deeds for citizens around the city and earn their respect; or even fool around and gain the attention of a few ladies, like a visiting American who is voiced by the lovely Emma Stone. (And, really, who wouldn't want her attention?)
A good portion of Sleeping Dogs' gameplay clicks really well. The free-running, where you take off after suspects and dive over counters while keeping them in your sights, is a great deal of fun, and shows Wei's mobility to boot. The driving is excellent as well, giving you the opportunity to take part in spirited high-speed races through the city and even slam into opponents using ramming functionality. (Try knocking a guy into an oncoming truck. Great results follow.) And the combat, which has quite a bit in common with Batman: Arkham City, is quite satisfying, as you'll beat up goons with punches and kicks before finishing them off by throwing them into a box of swordfish (ouch) or ramming them head first into an electrical conduit. Eh, he asked for it anyway.
Where the game comes up short is gunplay. Here, you've got some interesting tactics to choose from, including some inspired by the John Woo classic Hard Boiled, but, honestly, we'd rather run up and kick the guy around, just like a real bad-ass cop would. We did most of this in Stranglehold already.
The game provides replayability galore with hundreds of missions, and also has hidden statues that, once turned into the local dojo, will help expand your attacking repertoire. And once you learn a few nasty spin kicks, you'll know you have arrived as a martial arts master. Take that, knife wielder!
Even though it's not quite perfect (a few fuzzy blemishes pop up every now and then), Sleeping Dogs is a splendid looking game. United Front did a stellar job recreating Hong Kong, right down to the people-packed smaller markets and the chaotic city streets at night. There are times the camera gets stuck behind a wall on occasion, but it's never to the point of pure frustration. The character models are okay, though some are a little too stereotypical for their own good. (Could this one girl be any whiter? She's like Barry Manilow white.) Overall, this is a good looking project, especially considering the resurrection state it was in.
Likewise, the audio really cooks too. The various Hong Kong radio stations you can choose from provide a great deal of variety, including some J-pop and guitar rock, and the voice acting, featuring the likes of Will Yun Lee (as Wei) as well as Tom Wilkinson and, as previously mentioned, Emma Stone, delivers for a product of this level. Don't expect Shakespeare and you'll be just fine.
Though Sleeping Dogs doesn't quite reach the plateau of Grand Theft Auto (some parts could use a bit more polish – like the shooting scenes), it's a pretty damn good runner-up. There's a wealth of gameplay to play with here, including some combat that'll leave you smiling at all the chaos you create, and the presentation will really make you feel like you're standing smack dab in the middle of Hong Kong. Kudos to Square Enix for giving this Sleeping Dog a second chance at life.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]